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Residents pack iMET Center for Foxconn hearing on water

STURTEVANT — More than 200 people, some from as far away as Green Bay, packed the SC Johnson iMET Center in Sturtevant for a public hearing Wednesday to listen to officials from the state Department of Natural Resources and voice their opinions regarding Lake Michigan water being used for the Foxconn Technology Group project.

The application from the City of Racine asks for 7 million gallons of water to be diverted to the Village of Mount Pleasant to be used for Foxconn. The public received some more information about the project at the hearing.

Because the City of Racine supplies Mount Pleasant with water, Racine is submitting the application on behalf of the village, and DNR officials stated that although the application is for 7 million gallons, Foxconn plans to use 5.8 million, with the excess water to be used for other companies that may come to the area.

Great Lakes Compact

The Great Lakes Compact, which includes all states and provinces that border the Great Lakes and was put into effect in 2008, will play a major role in the DNR’s decision to grant the application to Racine.

The area where Foxconn plans to build its facility is outside of the Great Lakes basin, which makes Mount Pleasant a “straddling community.” That, according to the DNR, made the application from Racine and a public hearing necessary.

Shaili Pfeiffer, an official with the DNR, said Racine submitted the application at the end of January and that the agency is in the process of evaluating the application.

“All existing state and federal air, water quality, solid and hazardous waste (standards) must be met. None of these standards were changed for Foxconn,” Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer added any acre of wetland filled must be replaced with two acres of additional wetlands.

According to the Great Lakes Compact, Pfeiffer said, any “consumptive use” greater than 5 million gallons requires approval from the other states and provinces in the compact. However, Foxconn does not meet that threshold.

“The proposal includes a consumptive use of 2.7 million gallons a day,” Pfeiffer said. “Most of the consumptive use is associated with the cooling towers for the Foxconn facility.”

Pfeiffer said of the 5.8 million gallons being used, 4.3 million are expected to be returned to Lake Michigan via the Racine wastewater treatment plant. Foxconn must submit a pretreatment application on how it will treat the water before sending it to Racine.

“Foxconn hasn’t submitted specific information about what their wastewater will contain,” Pfeiffer said.

Concerns about water discharge

A question was asked about why a water pipeline is in the process of being built despite the DNR not granting Racine’s application.

“I don’t have an answer to that question,” Pfeiffer said. “They are not allowed to serve water unless they have a diversion application or would be in violation of state statutes. They’re not allowed to serve water even if those facilities are being built.”

While some voiced their support for the project, dozens of people expressed their concerns with the project, particularly regarding the discharge of water from Foxconn and the potential dangerous contaminants that could flow back into Lake Michigan.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason, who worked on the Great Lakes Compact when he was in the state Legislature, said he’s heard the concerns of residents on that issue.

“There is nothing in the diversion application that would exempt Foxconn or any other user from discharge laws … they will have to meet all the standards under the law,” Mason said. “Not on my watch are we going to let an application get through for a permit that wouldn’t meet or beat any local, state or federal standard.”

Mount Pleasant Village President Dave DeGroot said the village is paying for the application, and the area that is planned to be used for the application is “ideal for development.”

“If approved, the diversion of Great Lakes water to this area will provide a safe drinking water supply to an approximate 2.3-square-mile area of Mount Pleasant, including for the anticipated thousands of Wisconsin workers who would be employed by the companies located within the area,” DeGroot said. “It’s important to note that this is a ‘straddling community’ diversion request. It’s not a request to draw more water from Lake Michigan. If approved, the diversion will have little, if any, impact on Lake Michigan water volume or quality.”

Racine Theatre Guild announces 81st season

RACINE — The Racine Theatre Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave., announced the list of plays and musicals that will make up its 2018-19 season during a reception Tuesday night.

“This year, our playreading committee, made up of actors, crew members and staff, read over 170 plays and musicals to narrow it down to our final eight,” said Douglas Instenes, managing and artistic director of the Racine Theatre Guild. “It’s a daunting task, but we strive to pick the best entertainment possible for Racine and beyond each season.”

To a crowd of people, Instenes announced the 81st season, which will feature productions of “Blithe Spirit,” “Lombardi,” “Things My Mother Taught Me,” “Wait Until Dark,” and “9 to 5 The Musical.”

The season will also offer three limited-run bonus shows, including “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “A Christmas Carol: The Musical,” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

“A few of these shows, like ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ and ‘Lombardi,’ “ have been on our radar for a couple of years,” Instenes said. “We are excited to finally get the rights to present them.”

Season opener

The first play, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” written by Rick Elice with music by Wayne Barker, is based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The play is a coming-of-age-story and prequel of the well-known “Boy Who Would Not Grow Up” before he became Peter Pan.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” is set to grace the Theatre Guild stage July 20-29.

The next show will be “Blithe Spirit,” written by Noel Coward, which is scheduled to run from Sept. 14 through 30. The play is about a novelist who invites a self-proclaimed medium to his home to research a séance.

Next on the stage will be “Lombardi,” a play written by Eric Simonson and based on the book “When Pride Still Mattered — A Life of Vince Lombardi” by David Maraniss. The play is based on the life of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, five-time NFL champion and two-time Super Bowl champion. The production is scheduled to run from Oct. 19-Nov. 4.

For the second year in a row, the Racine Theatre Guild will feature “A Christmas Carol: The Musical,” based on the Charles Dickens novel. The show features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. The show is set to run Dec. 7-16 and follows the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, with a musical twist.

Looking to 2019

Next up will be the romantic comedy “Things My Mother Taught Me,” written by Katherine DiSavino. This production, which is scheduled to run Jan. 11-27, is a play about two young people who move into their first apartment together and cannot escape their parents’ watchful eyes.

“Wait Until Dark,” written by Frederick Knott, will be next. The thriller, which is planned to run Feb. 22-March 10, is about a blind housewife whose husband brings home a peculiar doll. This leads the housewife to find herself in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is on tap as the guild’s next show, based on the popular C.S. Lewis series and dramatized by Joseph Robinette. The show runs from April 5-14 and features a wardrobe that transports four children to the enchanted world of Narnia and their adventures there.

The season’s last show will be “9 to 5 The Musical,” featuring music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. The musical, based on a book by Patricia Resnick and a 20th Century Fox Picture, is about three female office workers who bond over their shared disgust with their sexist work environment and concoct a plan for revenge. The show is scheduled to run May 10-26.

“We love to have variety throughout our season,” Instenes said. “I think this line-up appeals to both volunteers and audience members with different interests and backgrounds. That’s one of the best things about theater — its ability to connect with all of us.”

MFeldmann / GERY WOELFEL,  

Prairie School defenders swarm around Milwaukee Destiny’s Sarion McGee during the first half of a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal Thursday night at Waukesha South. Destiny beat the Hawks 92-74.

Unified talks planning ahead of potential Foxconn-related growth

RACINE — The $10 billion Foxconn Technology Group manufacturing campus, set to be built in southwest Mount Pleasant, is expected to change the economic landscape of Racine County. Racine Unified School Board President Robert Wittke Jr. made a push during a meeting this week for the board to get ahead of these changes.

“With all the things happening in the community, we can’t afford to just sit back and be reactive to what goes on,” Wittke said. “We need to start getting ahead of where this is going to take us.”

Wittke reminded the board that an influx of employees working at the campus and in supporting industries could mean a boom in school population. Foxconn is expected to employ 3,000 people by the year 2020, and eventually as many as 13,000.

“Most likely, the population is going to end up within the borders of Racine Unified,” said School Board Vice President Dennis Wiser.

Wittke emphasized the importance of long and short term financial planning, as well as ensuring that the board invests in continuous improvement, especially when it comes to test scores.

“We still have to find ways to better educate our kids, up our graduation rates and make sure we’re providing them with the opportunities that they need,” he said.

Growth to the west

During a recent meeting with a local village that he declined to name, Wittke said he learned of 10 developments unrelated to Foxconn that were slated to begin construction within the next year.

“If you start looking at that, a lot of that growth is not going to be generated in the inner city, where we have a lot of our facilities,” Wittke said. “It’s going to move more to the west.”

He added that the district should look into how to handle any possible growth in student population, including deciding where the board would prefer to construct potential new facilities.

Some of the school’s current structures would not be able to handle an influx of students. Gifford Elementary School, for example, has a student population of about 1,500.

“It’s full,” he said.

A boom in student population could put pressure on that facility.

The district already has a facilities planning committee, but Wittke believes that Unified should establish a better framework for how decisions are made when it comes to updating facilities and building new ones.

“These are decisions that may require extending the referendum that we have or go out for a new one,” Wittke said. “It requires the board to set the framework for that.”

Wittke also stressed that the district needs to continue to focus on student achievement in order to be competitive.

School Board member Michelle Duchow said that some people looking to move into the area choose to live in other districts after viewing Unified’s state report card. Unified failed to meet expectations on its 2015-16 report card but moved up to a passing grade in 2016-17.

“This isn’t the first place they want to move when they have other places that are showing a lot higher (scores),” Duchow said.

Preparing for the future

No matter what those on the board might think about the Foxconn development, Wittke said, the district must ensure that its students are prepared for the jobs it is expected to provide.

“I think we have to give them every opportunity to move into whatever employment opportunities that will be offered there, and we would certainly be remiss if we can’t keep the pace to make that happen,” he said.

He added that the board should keep a close eye on Unified’s fiscal health so that it can continue to invest in technology and the development of the Academies of Racine.

Wittke recommended the board begin hosting more frequent meeting sessions to take a detailed look at some of the issues facing the district.

He advised that the board begin with a meeting concerning next year’s budget to determine priorities and make sure they align with the district’s strategic plan.

Wittke believes that those across the globe will be looking at Racine Unified to see if it can supply the workforce that the massive manufacturing campus is expected to require.

“Like it or not, the eyes of the world will be shifting on us once they move the first cubic yard of dirt,” he said.